Once thought to be extinct, this cute little critter was photographed for the first time in history earlier this year – and it also helps to serve as proof that the species is secretly thriving.
Botanist and wildlife enthusiast Michael Smith had been wandering throughout Indonesia, Kurdistan and Pakistan in the hopes of finding rare rhododendrons, tulips, and orchids, but what he wound up discovering was perhaps even more significant.
After coincidentally hearing about the Wondiwoi tree-kangaroo while exploring the New Guinea mountain range, Smith organized an expedition up the mountain, and through the dense forest to see if he could spot one of these elusive creatures.
Smith told National Geographic that after he and his team climbed roughly 5,000 feet up the mountain-side, they “could smell scent marks left by the kangaroos – a sort of foxy smell.”
After days of unsuccessful searching and with no sight of the kangaroo, Smith and his team began heading back down the mountain; and that was when Smith’s guide spotted something in the tree-line above. Roughly 90 feet above the ground was the Wondiwoi, nestled in the branches of a tree, peeking its head out from the canopy. Smith, shocked and shaking with excitement, grabbed his camera and managed to snap the first known photo of the Wondiwoi to ever be taken.
What is even more significant is that Smith and his team’s account of multiple scratch marks and dung in the area suggest that there is a thriving population of Wondiwois, limited to a small area in the forest.
After sharing his findings with kangaroo experts, the photo has been confirmed as authentic, and certified as proof that the once-rumored Wondiwoi species is still persisting.
“It’s exciting to have a positive story for a change,” Roger Martin of James Cook University told Nat Geo. “It makes the point that if we provide habitat for animals and otherwise leave them alone, then they will get on just fine.”